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Revealed: World Technology Network's innovators of 2012

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October 24, 2012

Gizmag reveals the winners of the World Technology Summit & Awards 2012 (Photo: Ben Chau)

Gizmag reveals the winners of the World Technology Summit & Awards 2012 (Photo: Ben Chau)

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The World Technology Network summoned leading thinkers to New York's TIME Conference Center on Monday and Tuesday to announce the winners of its 2012 World Technology Summit & Awards. The awards showcase the work of innovators across a diverse array of industry sectors and scientific fields. Gizmag reveals the list of winners, which includes no shortage of familiar faces.

There were few surprises in the Space categories, with commercial orbital rocketry pioneers SpaceX seizing the corporate award. In October, SpaceX's Dragon set off for the International Space Station: the first commercial flight of its kind. Meanwhile, the individual award was given to NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Adam Steltzner. Something of a landing specialist, given Steltzner's involvement in getting the Curiosity rover safely onto Martian ground this is hardly a mystery.

Almost as unsurprisingly, Pinterest snared the Communications Technology corporate award. By the close of 2011, then less than two years old, the social image-bookmarking site had broken into the top ten online social networking sites, reportedly driving more traffic to retailers than Google+ and LinkedIn. In the year to September 2012, web traffic to Pinterest in the US increased by a factor of 15, to nearly 140 million visits per month. The individual Communications Technology award was given to JUNET-founder, Keio University's Jun Murai.

In the IT Hardware field, 3D printer manufacturer MakerBot was the richly-deserved winner of the corporate award. The company's Replicator and Replicator 2 3D printers are commercializing, and more importantly democratizing, the process of fabrication with, frankly, mind-bending implications for society. Equally-deserved was the individual award, snapped up as it was by the University of Pennsylvania's Vijay Kumar (he of synchronized swarming quadrotor flying robot fame).

In the IT Software stakes, Leap Motion took the corporate award. Earlier this year Leap unveiled a US$70 USB device that allows hand and figure gesture-controls for home computers, apparently with 200 times the sensitivity of Microsoft's Kinect sensor. Sean Gourley of Quid was awarded the individual prize.

Barber Osgerby won the Design category, doubtless for seeing off 89 other designs to see its own chosen for the 2012 Olympic Torch (a design which scooped the Design Museum's Design of the Year award).

Harvard's Wyss Institute basically swept the biotech awards, with the school taking the (apparently loosely named) corporate award and its Director Donald Ingber claiming the individual gong. Earlier this year, the Institute engineered a “gut-on-a-chip,” an in vitro device the size of a USB thumb drive designed to better replicate the human intestine's response to treatments of enteric disorders. More recently the Institute developed a “DNA barcode,” a potential breakthrough in the field of biomedical imaging.

In the Energy category, Agilyx, which has patented a scalable system for converting discarded plastics into crude oil, won the corporate award. Meanwhile, the individual gong was grabbed by Pavegen's Laurence Kemball-Cook. Pavegen produces an in-ground energy recovery system that harvests energy from the footsteps of pedestrians.

There were familiar faces, too, in the field of Health & Medicine. Ekso Bionics took the corporate award. Ekso has made stunning progress in developing exoskeletons which can help people with severe paraplegic injuries walk again. UCLA's Aydogan Ozcan, who in 2010 invented of the world's smallest and lightest telemedicine microscope, won the individual award. Earlier this year Ozcan led research into the 3D imaging of human sperm swimming patterns, discovering beyond doubt that they sometimes swim in helices.

See below for the winners list entirety, several more of which will be familiar to Gizmag readers:

  • Arts: Mark Coniglio – Composer/Media Artist, Co-founder Troika Ranch
  • Biotechnology (Individual): Donald Ingber – Director, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University; Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology, Harvard Medical School & Vascular Biology Program, Boston Children's Hospital; Professor of Bioengineering, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • Biotechnology (Corporate): Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University
  • Comm. Technology (Individual): Jun Murai – Professor, Faculty of Environmental Information, Keio University (Japan)
  • Comm. Technology (Corporate) : Pinterest
  • Design: Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby – Founders, Barber Osgerby
  • Education: Cathy N. Davidson & David Theo Goldberg – Founders, HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition
  • Energy (Individual): Laurence Kemball-Cook – Director, Pavegen Systems
  • Energy (Corporate): Agilyx
  • Entertainment: Olivier Bau & Ivan Poupyrev – REVEL technology developers and Researchers, Disney Research, Pittsburgh
  • Environment (Individual): Derek Lam – DEHTLET & World Marketing Development Centre Ltd
  • Environment (Corporate): Bug Agentes Biologicos
  • Ethics: Anthony F. Beavers – Professor of Philosophy, University of Evansville
  • Finance (Individual): Ben Horowitz – Co-founder, Andreessen Horowitz Co-founder & CEO, Opsware
  • Finance (Corporate): New Enterprise Associates
  • Health & Medicine (Individual): Aydogan Ozcan – Professor, UCLA School of Engineering
  • Health & Medicine (Corporate): Ekso Bionics
  • IT Hardware (Individual): Vijay Kumar – Professor of Engineering, University of Pennsylvania
  • IT Hardware (Corporate): MakerBot
  • IT Software (Individual): Sean Gourley – Chief Technology Officer, Quid
  • IT Software (Corporate): Leap Motion
  • Law: Tim Wu – Professor, Columbia Law School
  • Marketing Communications: Joan Casas Cervero – Founder & CEO, uWhisp
  • Materials (Individual): Amit Goyal – Chair, UT-Battelle-ORNL Corporate Fellow Council
  • Materials (Corporate): Thinfilm Electronics
  • Media & Journalism: David Weinberger – Author, Too Big to Know & Co-Director of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab

  • Policy: Vivek Wadhwa – Vice President of Academics and Innovation, Singularity University
  • Social Entrepreneurship: Greg Van Kirk – Co-founder, Community Enterprise Solutions
  • Space (Individual): Adam Steltzner – NASA Engineer, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Space (Corporate): SpaceX
About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life.   All articles by James Holloway
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